Though Missoula seemed physically far removed from the disasters in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, their shock waves were still felt deeply even in our tranquil valley: from those who lost family and friends in the World Trade Center collapse, to the tense weeks of anthrax scares that followed, to the heightened security measures at airports and border crossings, to the steady erosion of civil liberties that, more than any financial losses or economic setbacks of Sept. 11, poses the greatest threat yet to our free and open society.
Of all the images captured locally on film the year, none seems more symbolic of the events of 2001 than the dismantling of the Missoula Peace Sign, which stood on a hillside overlooking the Missoula Valley since the beginning of the anti-nuclear movement in the early 1980s. This year its owner, Qwest, deemed the structure obsolete and tore it down. What bitter irony, when its message has never been more timely or vital.
Montanans who made news in 2001
From top to bottom: University of Montana journalism student Linda Tracy videotaped and compiled some of the most heated confrontations between police and citizens during last year’s Hells Angels riot. The city attorney issued her a subpoena, demanding that she hand over her raw footage, arguing that the state’s journalism “shield law” did not apply to her because she was a student and her work was not “objective” enough and thus biased against the police. The dispute smoldered until March when District Judge Douglas Harkin ruled in Tracy’s favor, stating that the shield law’s protection was “absolute.”
Montanans bid a fond farewell to one of their own when Michael Joseph Mansfield, a Democrat and the longest-serving Senate majority leader, died on the morning of Oct. 5 at the age of 98. Mansfield’s career as majority leader spanned the presidencies of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, after which he went on to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Japan under both Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Widely respected for his contributions to public service during turbulent times in American politics, Mike Mansfield will always be remembered for his gentle self-effacement, his soft voice and his abiding love and devotion to his wife, Maureen, and the state he served. Peace, Mike.
A year after thrusting himself into the national spotlight as George W. Bush’s chief advocate and PR spokesman during the 2000 Florida recount, former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot was rewarded for his efforts with his appointment as chairman of the Republican National Committee. Political observers widely believe that Racicot, now a lobbyist for energy, timber and mining interests at the Houston-based law firm of Bracewell and Patterson, was chosen to help the Republicans unseat Sen. Max Baucus (D–Mont.) and regain control of the Senate in 2002.
In the rarefied air of international diplomacy, détente is sometimes easier to accomplish with small, incremental gestures of goodwill than with high-profile summits among world leaders. This year, Missoula was home to one such rapprochement when Hadi Nejad Hosseinian (center), Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, accepted an invitation from Mark Johnson (right) of the Montana World Affairs Council to speak at the University of Montana, a major diplomatic coup, as the United States and Iran have not had formal diplomatic relations for more than 20 years. “It’s like Mike Mansfield once said,” says Johnson. “First you’ve got to hear what the other guy has to say.”
When Region One Forester Dale Bosworth of Missoula got the nod from President Bush to head up the USDA Forest Service in Washington, D.C., he took local issues—and some say local decision-making—to the national level. Most controversial among those decisions are plans by the Bitterroot National Forest to offer up some 180 million board feet in 30 separate timber sales following the devastating wildfires of 2000. The proposal drew cheers from loggers, who have seen timber sales decline in the past few years. It also prompted a court challenge from environmentalists, who charged the Forest Service with violating federal law by eliminating citizen appeals, and ignoring scientists who found fault with the proposal. Just last week a federal judge put the massive project on hold until the two issues are resolved in court.
The face of Paul Peronard, the Environmental Protection Agency coordinator in Libby, expressed well the frustration people in Libby felt over the foot-dragging that went on this year in trying to gain Superfund status for a town contaminated with asbestos from years of vermiculite mining. Last summer, the town convened a panel of leading citizens and politicians to discuss the pros and cons of a Superfund designation. Conspicuous by her absence was Gov. Judy Martz, who was roundly criticized by Libby residents for avoiding the issue. Martz came through for the town last week, however, when she announced her intention to place the asbestos-contaminated town on the Superfund fast-track cleanup list.
Hate speak in western Montana reached epic proportions in 2001, as Kalispell AM radio station owner and talk show host John Stokes stepped up his rhetoric against Flathead Valley environmentalists on his daily show, “The Edge.” Although Stokes vigorously defends his behavior by claiming the First Amendment protects verbal pillorying and on-air harassment of local citizens, many in his community say he’s gone too far. Reports of verbal and physical threats, intimidation, property damage and assault against those who support environmental causes all increased this year. Meanwhile, others say such hate speech may be responsible in part for the mysterious and as-yet unexplained death in April of Flathead Valley activist Tary Mocabee, who was an active and healthy woman found drowned in six inches of water on her own property.
Cooking on the front burner
Rock Lake in the Cabinet Mountains east of Noxon is part of the watershed environmentalists fear will be severely damaged by the proposed Rock Creek Mine project. The project was approved by the USDA Forest Service and the state Department of Environmental Quality in September’s Final Environmental Impact Statement, and the Record of Decision—a compilation of documents and decisions created over the 14-year permitting process—was just released Wednesday. Private land on the Libby Creek drainage (center background) will provide access for the enormous mining tunnels that will burrow into a huge ore body containing copper and silver, displacing 100 million tons of rock in the process.
Bob Spoklie, president of the Montana Alternative Livestock Producers, closes the gate after feeding his farmed elk. In the year following the passage of Initiative I-143 (which effectively ended elk ranching in Montana) Spoklie sued the state and sold his elk live to local hunters, who were free to shoot them on his land. Although Spoklie won an early court victory, a spokesman with Fish, Wildlife and Parks says he expects the case will go to the Montana Supreme Court and will eventually ban canned hunts in Montana forever.
Facing soaring—and potentially debilitating—electrical rates resulting from deregulation and energy shortages in California, Smurfit-Stone Container found it could produce its own electricity cheaper than it could buy it. So despite stiff opposition from downwind Missoulians, the company installed temporary diesel generators at the plant. The paperboard manufacturing facility was not the only business affected by sky-high energy prices, however, as numerous Montana industries temporarily put their operations on hold. By the winter, electricity rates had eased considerably, in large measure due to a nationwide economic slump made worse by the Sept. 11 attacks.
Wildfires in 2000 may have brought out the worst in Mother Nature, but she responded with a bountiful harvest of savory morsels: morel mushrooms. The Bitterroot National Forest looked almost crowded last spring as mushroom pickers—amateur and professional alike—took to the hills in search of the smoky, post-fire delicacies. At times, harvesting turned ugly when pickers threatened each other in territorial squabbles. Reports of gunfire were common and in a few instances pickers were threatened by overzealous law enforcement.
Working hard, Playing hard
A fan briefly shares the limelight with Missoula Osprey first baseman Jesus Cota after a game at Missoula’s Lindborg-Cregg Field. Cota won the Pioneer League’s “Triple Crown” (best batting average, most home runs and RBIs) and was a key component of an Osprey team that ripped up the league for the second-half title before falling to arch-rival Billings Mustangs in the championship game. Cota will likely be wearing the uniform of the world-champion Arizona Diamondbacks in the near future.
This year Missoula saw the first official citywide Ultimate Frisbee league which, to the surprise of organizers, drew more than 100 people wanting to toss the disc. At the competitive level, Missoula’s Ultimate Frisbee superstars, the “Trigger Hippies,” hurled themselves to the national championship in Florida in early November. After a Montana winter, the team will fly to Honolulu to compete in the World competition in the spring.
UM Grizzly football coach Joe Glenn leads his jubilant team in a rousing rendition of “Up With Montana” at the Adams Center on Saturday. A packed house greeted the conquering heroes the day after the Grizzlies’ 13-6 championship victory over the Furman Paladins in Chattanooga, Tenn. Gov. Judy Martz then issued an “executive order” that Glenn was not allowed to leave his post for a coaching job elsewhere.
A firefighter with the Missoula Fire Department’s Combat Challenge Team drags a 175-lb “victim” to safety at the “World Challenge X” in Memphis, Tenn., an international competition that tests the mettle of firefighters in a series of work-related simulations. The Missoula team–Brad Roe, Derek Mullins, Randy Thorpe, Robert Hanneman, Matt Kerns, Garrett Venters and Jeremy Williams–bested more than 500 firefighters from departments around the world to set a new world record and come home with the team competition title.
Anyone who says the Independent doesn’t know how to have a good time clearly did not make it to our 10th anniversary blowout on April 14 in the University Center. Here, ordinarily staid and mild-mannered Independent publisher Matt “Grand Mufti” Gibson enthusiastically takes a lesson in either the Funky Chicken or the Monkey from local astrologer and bonne vivante MoonCat!, whom he later favored with a crisp $50 bill for answering his challenge for the night’s first display of public nudity. Not pictured: runner-up Deven Richardson, then a recent hire in the Indy’s sales department, who disrobed with surprising haste and enthusiasm before learning that the prize money had already been won. Put it on, Deven baby, put it all on!